RE: VW Golf GTI: Review

RE: VW Golf GTI: Review

Friday 3rd May 2013

VW Golf GTI: Review

Harris gets aboard the all-new Golf GTI - game changer or business as usual?



The world is still in rapture over the first two generations of VW's most famous GTI, but I'm afraid it was a much later version of the car that turned me into a Golf-advocate: the Mk5. Before that I always thought French was best.

Changes are incremental yet significant
Changes are incremental yet significant
What a car that was. You only needed to look at it, sit in it and drive five miles to know that VW hadn't just righted the wrongs of the shabby Mk4, it had provided the answer to a question several thousand people had been asking: I want a hot-hatch that's built properly, has a decent badge and is till fun to drive - what do I buy?

The seventh-generation Golf GTIappears to be slotting comfortably into that most generic German behavior of hiding significant mechanical changes under coachwork that doesn't shout about change. The new platform which gives up to 100kg weight savings in lesser models only allows this car to be 42kg lighter than before. Even so, VW should be applauded for launching a car that is lighter than the one it replaces.

Narrow niche
The car uses a new development of the EA888 motor which has 220hp and 258lb ft as standard. There's the option of a 10hp power increase with the Β£980 GTI Performance upgrade (also includes bigger brakes and an active locking differential), but peak torque remains the same. The car I drove was a plain vanilla GTI with 220hp, 18-inch wheels, a manual transmission and five doors. It was very good, but I think the Golf GTI needs to be very careful how and where it positions itself in the marketplace.

Manual version is more than a sop to 'purists'
Manual version is more than a sop to 'purists'
Volkswagen is now the master at spending money where it will win friends and being mean where it can be hidden. Everything you touch and most of the surfaces you can see in this car are of high quality. The fabric seats are tightly trimmed and generously contoured, there's ornamental carbon littered about the place and the control surfaces all shriek quality. However, fumble around in the boot and you quickly realise that the carpets and fittings are 1986 Nissan Bluebird standard. As far as I'm concerned, it's a brilliant policy, because it leaves cash for things like near lag-free engines and snazzy suspension components.

Ruthless ambition
Volkswagen claims the Golf will hit 62mph 6.5 seconds (6.4 for the GTI Performance) but such is the thrust from 2,000rpm it actually feels more urgent than that. It's a completely ruthless engine: uncannily smooth and potent given its rated power and yet slightly lacking in any personality. In a car like this, that doesn't bother me one iota; others might not feel the same.

Bells and whistles cost; basic is likely best
Bells and whistles cost; basic is likely best
What a surprise to use a manual gerashift that seems to have had time and effort lavished on it. The throw is short enough but not stupidly so, and it allows those delectable second-to-third shoves with the right arm which will always make left-hand drive cars that little bit more satisfying to pilot when fitted with three pedals.

Now we are at the mercy of the specification sheet because the test car was also fitted with the optional Β£800 adaptive chassis control. This gives three damper modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport, and then the chance to merge these into already changeable steering weight and throttle response. Basically, just like all of its rivals.

Comfort mode
Or maybe not quite, because the GTI's chassis throws some surprises on the road. In comfort mode, this car is one of the most impressive fast hatches I've ever driven in that it reminds me of those long-travel French machines that defined the art back in the 80s. The ride is supple and yielding, at low-speed in town the car is so much more comfortable than its rivals you can barely draw any comparison - and yet the moment you drive faster on bumpy roads you notice that the car retains full control. Yes, the roll angles are a little greater than you might expect, but the suspension absorbs and allows the car to travel at pretty dizzying speed.

Active diff option appeals but fine without too
Active diff option appeals but fine without too
This is rather more than a lowered Golf. The lower wishbones of the struts are completely new, as is the entire roll bar assembly and pivot bearing. Everything is stronger and lighter.

So, as someone who has raged against over-firm suspension for years, this car is something of a revelation. As are the other two suspension modes. In Normal you sacrifice a sensible amount of low speed ride for extra agility, but the ride never becomes crashy and harsh and even in Sport mode you can drive quite happily on the road. In most cars with a 'sport' damper button, you'd never bother pushing it, in the GTI you might actually enjoy the experience.

Electric response
The steering is a new progressive rack which works with just 2.1 turns between locks. Normally I hate anything with a variable ratio, and rather than dwell on the minutiae of how it works all I can say is that I never once felt like my inputs were being tampered with for the sake of either reduced arm twirling (low speed) or precision (high speed) - which of course they were. As with all these electric systems there's a tangible sense of disconnection, but within a few miles you're placing the car just where you want it.

'Accomplished' isn't damning with faint praise
'Accomplished' isn't damning with faint praise
The driving position is multi-adjustable and superb, the steering wheel rim isn't too thick and I personally love the check-cloth interior. The front seats are among the best in any car, at any price.

Now let's talk about the BMW M135i. I didn't have one to drive back-to-back with the Golf, but it does pose some very awkward questions for the VW. For starters, I think it makes the case for a fully-loaded Β£35K Golf with performance pack, leather and all the toys look very tenuous indeed. The Golf is a beautifully executed everyday package, but the BMW's performance is on another planet. So I think the Golf is actually at its best lower down the price range because it needs to be nowhere near that pesky 1 Series.

Take the base three-door for Β£25,845, keep the cloth, the brilliant Β£525 Dynaudio hi-fi system and the dampers and leave it at that. Not once did I find myself exiting a second gear turn and wishing the car had a locking differential over the ESP-based cheat it offers as standard - maybe on a track I might, but who actually uses a new GTI as a regular track tool?

This is a car with so much to offer so many people, and a significant improvement over its predecessor, but it enters a marketplace which has recently been up-ended by that BMW. Still, drive a new GTI on a bumpy road and you will be very surprised at what it can achieve.


VOLKSWAGEN GOLF GTI
Engine:
1,984cc 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual/6-speed dual-clutch auto (DSG), front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 220@4,500rpm/230@4,700rpm (GTI Performance)
Torque (lb ft): 258@1,500rpm
0-62mph: 6.5sec (DSG 6.4)/6.4sec (GTI Performance, manual and DSG)
Top speed: 154mph
Weight: 1,351kg
MPG: 47mpg (DSG 44.1mpg, NEDC combined)
CO2: 139g/km (DSG 148g/km)
Price: Β£25,845 (manual, three-door, 220hp)

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Author
Discussion

TheBigUnit

Original Poster:

362 posts

141 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
This is the first Volkswagen I have wanted in a while. It seems like such an accomplished and complete package.

Schnellmann

1,893 posts

153 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
I see what Chris is saying about not loading the GTi up...but the problem is, you can get an unloaded 135 with three doors and manual gearbox and no toys for £30k, which is just £4k more than the Golf. And as he accepts, the BMW is in a different league performance wise. And is rearwheel drive. And is a BMW. And I think the 135 even comes with leather as standard.

TheBigUnit

Original Poster:

362 posts

141 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
Schnellmann said:
I see what Chris is saying about not loading the GTi up...but the problem is, you can get an unloaded 135 with three doors and manual gearbox and no toys for £30k, which is just £4k more than the Golf. And as he accepts, the BMW is in a different league performance wise. And is rearwheel drive. And is a BMW. And I think the 135 even comes with leather as standard.
True, but a 135i will never appear on my company car list. Putting that to one side, I bet the Golf rides a damn sight better than the Beemer, and in a daily driver that is a big consideration for me.

justa1972

161 posts

86 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
'And is a BMW.'

That sums it all up - I'll take the VW...

urquattroGus

1,129 posts

139 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
I've specced one up to £34,500 and that's without the leather! (£1200?)

Very dissapointed that the DSG has HIGHER C02 with DSG than as a manual, the reverse of what seems to be true with most other cars at the moment. Maybe its because its got 6 instead of 7 speeds etc.

I got very close to ordering an M135i, but the company car tax is a little high now the S3 and A45 AMG have arrived.

It looks like I will be able to order a nicely specced new S3 for about 37-38K or even less, and that comes with leather and 300 bhp as standard!

220-230bhp, PAH! That's pretty pathetic for this kind of money!

The most annoying thing is that neither Mercedes or Audi have firmly announced their pricing, it's taking forevever! Perhaps they are all playing a waiting game to see what the opposition does.

Hub

4,473 posts

147 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
"Take the base three-door for £25,845, keep the cloth, the brilliant £525 Dynaudio hi-fi system and the dampers and leave it at that".

Not the Performance Pack? £980 for 10BHP increase, better brakes and front diff.

Biltok

1 posts

80 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
Hi Monkey!
The point of a e-lsd as in the performance pack case it is a mechanical diff that is electronically controlled. As for example the rear axle of some Ferraris.
This should mean that it is not only used for traction but to increase or decrease yaw during cornering exit, when throttle applied of course.

Not saying it is a good option or not but just wanted to clarify.
Best regards from /Home of Saab

Mike Roberts

125 posts

147 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
My 5 door, metallic, ProNav, heated seated M135i came in at under £30k - big discounts make it an insanely cheap car.

Monkey's right, it isn't in the same category really, it's just the pricing forces the comparison. It really should be the Golf R we're talking about v the M135i

And it rides fantastically.

Technomatt

1,085 posts

82 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
Looks like VW has turned up the heat a bit and will now be tempting those Megane RS, ST and VXR aficionados.

NoChicane

15 posts

81 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
Technomatt said:
Looks like VW has turned up the heat a bit and will now be tempting those Megane RS, ST and VXR aficionados.
10 bhp hike? hardly a heat is it...

Ali_T

3,365 posts

206 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
Nope. Just can't get interested in one at all. and for £25k, I have to really WANT a car. This is just a faster white good.

DanielJames

7,081 posts

117 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
MPG: 47mpg

What?

Nearly double the Mk5? yikes

ELUSIVEJIM

7,758 posts

100 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
I have to say I very much doubt anyone would require to test drive any car before buying it if Chris has written a review.

From the cars I have driven after reading an article by Chris he is spot on every time.

The Golf sounds very tempting but I would be tempted with the Performance pack.

Technomatt

1,085 posts

82 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
NoChicane said:
Technomatt said:
Looks like VW has turned up the heat a bit and will now be tempting those Megane RS, ST and VXR aficionados.
10 bhp hike? hardly a heat is it...
Handling, feel, weight, decent LSD + power option.

A Megane RS 265 is £26,500.

greggy50

4,863 posts

140 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
Schnellmann said:
I see what Chris is saying about not loading the GTi up...but the problem is, you can get an unloaded 135 with three doors and manual gearbox and no toys for £30k, which is just £4k more than the Golf. And as he accepts, the BMW is in a different league performance wise. And is rearwheel drive. And is a BMW. And I think the 135 even comes with leather as standard.
BMW comes better specified really take the golf then add £500 for the stereo, £1k for the performance back and then £1200 for the leather and you end up at circa £28k for a car that is similar specified to a bog standard 135i accept that it is 100bhp down!

Also I believe you can get a circa 2k discount on the BMW and at this point the Golf just looks a bit of a joke really at that price imo

The golf R will also be a waste of money as well as if a performance pack golf is £28k the R will be most certainly more than the 32k an Audi S3 costs and I can't see why anyone would pay more to own a VW over the Audi equivalent...

Motorrad

6,735 posts

136 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
Only issue with these is that they cost too much. It really doesn't offer enough bang for your buck.

re:47mpg I'd be interested to know if it requires 98 RON and is achievable in the real world.

100kilos weight saving is good though.


Edited by Motorrad on Friday 3rd May 11:20

Roma101

515 posts

96 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
"a question several thousand people had been asking: I want a hot-hatch that's built properly, has a decent badge and is till fun to drive - what do I buy?"

Out of interest, I wonder what annual hot hatch sales are (UK, Europe, worldwide).

As a serial hot hatch buyer myself, I haven't asked this question before. Although, I admit I am now thinking about asking the question. However, having said that, is this question still relevant? Of the hot hatches I have driven/owned, most of the more modern ones are "built properly". Is there such a thing as a "decent badge"? What does that mean? It could mean any number of things. For example, you could put together a decent argument that Audi is not a decent badge. But equally, and more mainstream thinking would support this, Audi could be seen as a very decent badge. A very subjective issue. Therefore, we are left with still "fun to drive". Again, this is subjective, but let's hope that the manufacturers don't neglect this at the expense of the other two criteria.

As for the new GTI, I like the look of it and think it would be a very sound ownership prospect. I might give it a go. However, I do like my hot hatches a little bit more wild/extreme.

Kawasicki

6,792 posts

184 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
You really have to hate the BMW image to buy a Golf over the M135i.

Roma101

515 posts

96 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
greggy50 said:
BMW comes better specified really take the golf then add £500 for the stereo, £1k for the performance back and then £1200 for the leather and you end up at circa £28k for a car that is similar specified to a bog standard 135i accept that it is 100bhp down!

Also I believe you can get a circa 2k discount on the BMW and at this point the Golf just looks a bit of a joke really at that price imo

The golf R will also be a waste of money as well as if a performance pack golf is £28k the R will be most certainly more than the 32k an Audi S3 costs and I can't see why anyone would pay more to own a VW over the Audi equivalent...
Having trawled the German and German owned dealers recently in respect of boggo hatches for the other half, we were offered a near £2k discount from BMW (this would have applied to the M as well - I asked out of curiosity). The VW dealer wouldn't give us a penny off a new diesel Golf. Merc offered a bit of a discount. Not as much as BMW though. Therefore, the price difference between a basic manual M135i and a decently specced GTI (sorry, I would have to have the performance pack) would not be huge. I would probably swing towards the BMW to be honest, but if someone said I had to have the GTI, I wouldn't be too upset, because it is a decent car and I like them.

Edited by Roma101 on Friday 3rd May 11:35

kambites

57,653 posts

170 months

Friday 3rd May 2013
quotequote all
Kawasicki said:
You really have to hate the BMW image to buy a Golf over the M135i.
I can't help but feel that if the 1-series wasn't so pig ugly, it would pretty much obsolete the rest of the hot hatch market overnight.